September 23, 2015

Journalism in grave danger in Turkey

İhsan Yılmaz

The Erdoğanist regime is not a dictatorship. Yet. But it is increasingly becoming a candidate to be one. Several analysts have suggested and shown that there are many similarities between what the Erdoğanist regime has been doing for the last two years and the late 1930s of Germany. As journalists, we can only do our jobs by taking risks. And this risk is a serious risk. Like Hidayet Karaca, a journalist can be imprisoned for nine months without any indictment written and without any right to appeal to higher courts. This is all thanks to a special closed “court” system that Erdoğanists created in order to punish their critics.

I am only waiting for my turn in jail since Erdoğanists are very open with their hatred for me and when in jail, they will be very pleased to torture me. This is the same, or worse even, for the editor-in-chief of this paper and several other colleagues of mine. Our only “crime” is to report everything as it is and to maintain a critical stance toward Erdoğanism. For Erdoğanists, journalism means that you obey the state and rulers and do not criticize them. If not, they easily label you a traitor. As a matter of fact, Erdoğan personally labeled me a traitor at a public gathering, without mentioning my name. But then all his supporting media showed pictures of me and told their audience that this is who Erdoğan was talking about. Since then, I have been receiving all sorts of threats. I no longer use public transport since I am concerned about Erdoğanist mobs. Only a few weeks ago they raided the Hürriyet daily offices and were not criticized by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership.

Hürriyet was lucky in the sense that it has received huge international support. The US ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, visited the Hürriyet offices to show solidarity. Unfortunately, we who work in the Hizmet movement-inspired media are not as lucky as our colleagues at Hürriyet. Unfortunately, we have been discriminated against without any legal or concrete reason. For about two years the government has been engaged in a sort of genocide against the movement's participants and their institutions, yet we have not heard a voice of sympathy or solidarity. I am not asking for it but this is, for the record, a double standard. These double standards against practicing Muslims in Turkey have actually paved the way for the emergence of Erdoğanism. Erdoğanists have been skillfully reaping the benefits of this discrimination. The majority of Turkey's White Turks, and the Western governments that want to work only with them because of similar lifestyle, will never understand this mistake. The majority of Turks consider themselves conservative and religious, and they will always negatively respond to such double standards. This means that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may go today, but tomorrow we can easily have another one.

Why not try, this time, to stick to the principles and voice equal concern for journalist Mehmet Baransu, who has been in solitary confinement without any indictment, and Gültekin Avcı, who has been jailed by a judge who previously sued him. Messrs Avcı, Baransu and Karaca were only engaged in journalism and the Erdoğanists have so far not been able to present any evidence otherwise.

If journalism is crucial for democracy, why are Western democracies, chiefly the US, turning a blind eye to injustices that have been perpetrated against these journalists?

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 September 2015, Wednesday